Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Scrooge: Fifty Shades of Indifference

With his timeless book, A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens created for us the cautionary tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Like the rest of us, Ebenezer had a wholly Olympian as well as a wholly Christian personality. His wholly Olympian personality especially devoted itself to Pluto, the god of money. For this reason, Olympian Ebenezer practiced intentional indifference toward anyone useless to him for the purpose of making money. Our Olympian personalities do the same.
We first learn that Olympian Ebenezer walked from home to work and back in a way which deliberately discouraged strangers from speaking with him. No one, Dickens tells us, exchanged greetings with him, asked money of him, or sought directions from him. Even service dogs wisely guided their blind masters away from him. How did Ebenezer feel about all this avoidance by others in their response to his clear contempt for them? It was the very thing he liked (Stave 1, “Marley’s Ghost, here and following). Yes, rather than pricking Ebenezer’s Christian conscience, their behavior only fed his Olympian indifference.

Olympianity is the religion of power and measures status in terms of it. From an Olympian point of view, one of the benefits of being higher in status is deriving positive emotional energy from controlling those lower in status.
Olympian Ebenezer shows us how this is done in relationship to his clerk Bob Cratchit. He forces Bob to work where he can watch Bob and thereby exert his control over Bob anytime he wants over any imagined shortcoming. He gets to keep Bob as cold as possible while still demanding significant production from him. It’s warming to Ebenezer to watch Bob shivering. Ebenezer especially enjoys eliciting rapid conformity to his arbitrary commands by threatening Bob and his family with starvation and homelessness through unemployment. Bob’s work as an accounting clerk is not nearly as important to Ebenezer as the vitality he is able to parasitically suck out of the life of Bob. That’s very satisfying indeed.
Ebenezer has other ways of sucking vitality from others through acts of indifference. Two gentlemen enter Ebenezer’s office on Christmas Eve on behalf “of the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessities; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
To Ebenezer’s Olympian personality, he owes nothing to anyone lower in monetary status than he is. To him, if people are poor, that means they are stupid, lazy, and stubborn and richly deserve their punishing poverty. The state unjustly taxes him to support the prisons and workhouses it has mistakenly created to benefit them. The time of year doesn’t matter. “I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry” he explained.
Then Ebenezer reveals the depth of indifference which characterizes all our Olympian personalities. “I help to support the establishments I have mentioned [prisons and workhouses]: they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” To Ebenezer, those with low monetary status are worthless, burdensome, and deserve to die.
Compare this with the attitude of Jesus: “When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we would not help you?” The King will reply, “I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me” (Matthew 25:44-45, Good News Translation).
When the two gentlemen left, Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious [humorous] temper than was usual with him. Dickens shows us most accurately how actively expressing indifference toward people lower in status than we are, and discouraging others attempting to help them, is most satisfying to our Olympian personality. This demonstrates that, contrary to popular opinion among churchgoers, very bad people can be very happy indeed and are typically much happier then we are.
Our Olympian personality delights in bullying; that is, in gratuitously harming weaker people. One painfully cold boy bent down to sing a carol to Ebenezer through the keyhole of his office in hopes of gaining a penny or two. Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror… It took so little effort for Ebenezer to enjoy the intense emotional satisfaction of causing such a dramatic display of terror in another person.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.